In Picking Up, a book about the Sanitation Department, Robin Nagle describes DSNY locker rooms as loud, profane, and sometimes bawdy (think: photos of naked ladies taped to the locker doors). Upon walking into one Nagle is greeted by one san man yelling at his partner: "You cocksucking motherfucker, don't you ever do that again!" We've found a more substantive, if equally colorful Sanitation locker room argument about race, taxes, and the American Dream, and decided to test some of the claims therein.
"Stop fucking watching Glenn Beck and racist fucking asshole O'Reilly cause they're a bunch of fucking dumb crackers and all they are is mad that the black man is fucking taking over…They want to go back to the days of Uncle Thomas and fucking cotton picking. We ain't going back there."
We can't speak to whether Beck or O'Reilly long for the days of slavery. However, the two frequently espouse ideas about slavery and racism that are either ahistorical or factually inaccurate.
Beck has noted that "African-Americans don't own Martin Luther King," and that blacks and whites had great relations back in the 1790s but "it was slavery" that inflamed tensions. Here's what Beck said at this year's NRA convention:
"Our right to keep and bear arms will not be infringed. We will follow the footsteps of Jesus Christ, we will follow the footsteps of Frederick Douglas, Winston Churchill, Thomas Paine, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, [David] Ben-Gurion, Margaret Thatcher, Ronald Reagan, Ghandi, Thomas Jefferson and Martin Luther King, hear me now. Hear me now. We shall overcome."
Meanwhile, Bill O'Reilly has referred to slavery as a "historical grievance" that wrongfully permeates President Obama's decision-making. He has also openly longed for life in the 1950s, when Jim Crow was alive and well. His book on Abraham Lincoln and the Civil War is riddled with factual inaccuracies and "innuendo based on hearsay and scant evidence," according to one professor.
We rate this claim MOSTLY TRUE.
"I am a free man, I am a free man, I am a free man…There's black millionaires, get over it. Get over ittttttttttt."
While our protagonist is certainly a free man, and there are indeed black millionaires (though only seven out of the world's 1,426 billionaires are black, and only one of them is American), the wealth disparity between blacks and whites has risen to an alarming rate over the past few years. According to a Pew report, blacks lost 53% of their wealth because of the recent recession, dropping from a median net worth of $12,124 in 2005 to $5,677 in 2009. For whites those figures were $134,992 and $113,149.
A sample of black and white families that have been followed for 25 years by Brandeis University [PDF] shows that the gap has tripled since 1984, from $85,070 to $236,500.
According to the authors of the study, the gap has a lot to do with blacks being economically disadvantaged from the get-go, which in turn is adversely affected by racist "welfare queen" rhetoric advanced by the aforementioned "dumb crackers," not to mention the latent disenfranchisement of minorities by Republican voting laws.
We rate this claim TRUE, BUT MYOPIC.
"The fucking Mexicans come in and they fucking work and they pay taxes they don't even have to! My nail technician pays taxes—she doesn't even have to pay taxes!"
We'll take our protagonist's use of the word "Mexicans" to mean "undocumented immigrants." The IRS estimates [PDF] that around six million undocumented immigrants file income taxes every year. The Congressional Budget Office has said that between 50 and 75% of illegal immigrants pay federal, state, and municipal taxes. Because their population tends to be much younger, undocumented workers generated a Medicare surplus of $13.8 billion in 2009, while U.S. citizens generated a $30.9 billion deficit. Illegal immigrants contribute tens of billions in revenue to the United States.
We rate this claim TRUE, BUT DID YOU HAVE TO SAY IT THAT WAY?
"[Muffled talking]...when Jay-Z's gotta give up half his income."
Jay-Z's net worth is estimated to be around $460 million. Jay-Z has also said he would pay more taxes if asked, but that isn't likely to happen. The ultra-rich pay lower tax rates than the average person thanks to loopholes like carried interest and the 15% capital gains rate, that exist because rich people own our politicians.
We rate this claim JAY-Z'S GOT A LARGE NUMBER OF PROBLEMS, NEARLY 100 OR SO, BUT A 50% TAX RATE WILL LIKELY NEVER BE ONE OF THEM
"Tell Exxon-Mobil to pay their taxes...They don't pay taxes! You didn't hear that on Glenn Beck did you?"
Voice in background: "They pay their taxes."
Exxon Mobil pays plenty of municipal, land, payroll, gasoline, and other taxes. But when it comes to income taxes, they pay a lower rate than the average American. In 2011, the company paid 2% on their income of their $73.3 billion in earnings.
We rate both these claims TRUE.
[Puts arm around colleague] This fucking scumbag is a racist fucking pig. This is what a fucking racist looks like in America, the new fucking racism.
We rate this claim COMPLICATED AS IT SHOWS A WILLINGNESS TO APPRECIATE HUMANITY AND ALL ITS FAULTS IN A HUMOROUS WAY.
If you want your rowdy locker room conversations fact checked, you know where to find us.